2018-12-19 09:00:00 CEST

Getting the band back together

After a frustrating 2018 season, Ryan Doherty is back together with the veteran John Hyden

Doherty and Hyden are back together after enjoying success in 2017Doherty and Hyden are back together after enjoying success in 2017

Changing partners has never been a problem for Ryan Doherty - and after a frustrating 2018 season with Billy Allen the tallest player competing in the World Tour was open for another move.

When John Hyden, the oldest athlete to be part of the elite of beach volleyball, gave him a call, it was what he needed to make a decision.

The 46-year-old Hyden and the 2.16m-tall Doherty, nicknamed Avatar for his humongous height, shared the courts in 2017, but decided to go their separate ways at the end of that season. The move didn’t go well for either of them, as the Americans failed to reach the semifinals in any of the 14 international events they competed in the season that just ended.

“This past season was frustrating for me as I didn't play at a consistently high level and had some poor finishes as a result,” the 34-year-old Doherty told beachmajorseries.com.

“John approached me this off-season about getting the band back together, so it was a good opportunity for me. I'm very excited to get back on the sand with him and try to continue to improve on my own game.”

“We are targeting an Olympic run. Obviously, that is no small feat with all the great teams out there, but we are going to throw our hat into the ring and see what happens.”

Their past, indeed suggests better results are on the cards as during their time together in 2017 the veterans won a silver medal and amassed a fourth and two fifth places in just six World Tour events. They also won the final tournament of the American AVP season, in Chicago.

Couldn't ask for a better way to end the season!! I want to say Thank you to the @avpbeach and the fans of Chicago!! Thank you for everything!!! Also want to give a shout out to #mauijim @officialmauijim for shading my eyes @relieffactor @itakebioastin Time to hang with the family and enjoy the off season .....oh wait, there is no off season😜

480 Likes, 49 Comments - John Hyden (@johnnyhyden) on Instagram: "Couldn't ask for a better way to end the season!! I want to say Thank you to the @avpbeach and the..."

For Doherty, the opportunity to share the courts with a teammate as knowledgeable and seasoned as Hyden, who normally extrapolates his role as a player, was just too good to pass even though they will have to put up a lot of mileage just to practice together as he lives in California while John recently moved to Tennessee.

“Johnny definitely knows the most efficient way to do everything and he’s at his best when he can play the role of defensive coordinator,” the blocker added. “He wants to be able to dictate how we attack the opposing team and I am better when I am keeping things simple and following direction. So, in that regard, we are a very compatible team, as I rely on him for the strategy and game plan.”

The Americans finished fourth in Fort Lauderdale in their first tournament togetherThe Americans finished fourth in Fort Lauderdale in their first tournament together

What the their results will look like at the end of next season only time will tell, but Doherty and Hyden hope they can restart their partnership in the same way they first played together. The team was initially provisionally formed to compete in the 2017 Fort Lauderdale Major but the surprising fourth-place finish and the health issues of Hyden’s then-partner Tri Bourne made the veterans stick together for the entire season. 

“It was our first tournament together in 2017 and I remember getting a last-minute call for that event, as Tri Bourne was forced to pull out at the last minute,” Doherty recalled. “And aside from me melting in the heat, John and I played well together and made it to the semis.”

Hyden is one of 13 partners Doherty has had since he switched from playing baseball to beach volleyball in 2010. The blocker, who already shared the sand with Olympic champion Todd Rogers and Olympians Nick Lucena and Casey Patterson, is hoping to enjoy some success with Hyden, but if that’s not the case, he’ll be ready to move on again.

“As soon as one of the top teams breaks up, it tends to shuffle everyone below them,” he explained. “So there have been quite a few adjustments and new partnerships on the American side over the past two years, which I think is a positive overall.  It gives you a chance to work with people that have different skill sets as well as figure out the holes in your own game.”

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